SEA OF FLAGS, 2004, 2500 West Division Street, Chicago (Humboldt Park) by Gamaliel Ramirez (b. 1949) with the assistance of community members.
The mural entitled Sea of Flags depicts Fiesta Boricua (De Bandera a Bandera), an annual 3-day music and cultural event in the Humboldt Park neighborhood in Chicago. Attracting tens of thousands of visitors, the fiesta is held starting in late August or early September. In 2018 the Fiesta Boricua celebrated its 25th anniversary and offered 3 stages booked back to back with scores of musical and cultural performers specializing in the pulsating rhythms of Puerto Rican salsa, reggaeton, bomba, plena, and merengue music, and more.
Some of the famous people depicted in the mural Sea of Flags include Puerto Rican nationalist Lolita Lebrón (1919-2010), Nuyorican (“New York City/Puerto Rico”) poet and playwright Pedro Pietri (1944-2004) and, depicted as a bronze statue on the image’s left side, Don Pedro Albizu Campos (1891-1965), the leading figure in the Puerto Rican independence movement.
An abundance of Puerto Rican flags in the mural is intentional by the artist and his assistants. Since Spain ceded Puerto Rico to the United States in 1898 following the Spanish-American War — and at the same time that Spain ceded the island of Guam and the Philippines — Puerto Rico and the U.S. have had a complicated political relationship that is yet to be completely mutually resolved today.
Gamaliel Ramirez was born in the Bronx in New York in 1949. He spent most of his career in Chicago teaching and as a working artist. After 35 years in Chicago he retired to Santa Rita, San Juan, Puerto Rico. After Hurricane Maria in September 2017, Mr. Ramirez was hospitalized for many months and passed away on May 21, 2018. The artist of this colorful mural has left behind for us a legacy of paintings, other murals, photography and poetry.
“Over the Top to Victory” is a bronze sculpture that depicts an American infantryman in World War I (known popularly as “doughboys”) that was created by American sculptor John Paulding (1883-1935).
The statue was cast in 1921 by the American Art Bronze Foundry in Chicago and stands in Memorial Park in Wheaton, Illinois.
Paulding studied sculpture at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is best remembered today for his World War I memorials.
When the United States entered World War I in April 1917 the soldiers fought valiantly. An armistice was signed on November 11, 1918—the origin of today’s Veterans Day—in a victory for the allies. The war had started in August 1914 and had gone on for over four years.
The statue was dedicated on Armistice Day, November 11, 1929, in honor of all World War I veterans in Wheaton, Illinois. Memorial Park had been established in central Wheaton in 1921 specifically to honor war veterans. Four months before this statue was dedicated—on July 12, 1929—the WheatonIllinoian opined about The Doughboy: “The statue is a fitting memorial to the soldiers of the community who died fighting for our cause. Let us not forget so easily!”
After more than 70 years standing proudly outside in the elements, the statue was refurbished and conserved in August 2000 by Venus Bronze Work, Inc., in Detroit, Michigan—and rededicated on Veteran’s Day of that year. The same local American Legion Post led the dedication ceremonies in both 1929 and 2000.
Joan of Arc (French, 1412-1431) is one of the most popular and best documented medieval saints. The story of Jeanne La Pucelle as she is known in France has been beautifully depicted by many artists and writers for centuries—as well as in the films. The visitor to France can still visit the places and sites associated with the Maid and come away with a sense of her surroundings and times of almost six centuries ago.
There is a slew of literature about Joan. A fascination with her story and significance started in the early fifteenth century with the transcripts of her trial. Modern literary authors such as Mark Twain, George Bernard Shaw and Vita Sackville-West have also written serious tomes. The recent scholarly tracts and contemporary nonfiction are vast. Within this educational and informational field, there are several ways to approach the facts of France’s warrior-maid, Joan of Arc.
One example is French artist Octave Denis Victor Guillonnet’s paintings (1872-1967). Everyone interested in Joan will always first meet her when she is a peasant girl in the small village of Domrémy in the east of France.
Before she is a teenager and throughout the rest of her short life Joan is called by her voices of Sts. Michael, Margaret, and Catherine of Alexandria. Their explicit instruction is for her to aid France as a warrior-maid.
Joan’s involvement was at a critical juncture in France’s long “100 Year” war against the competing powers of England and Burgundy. Joan’s military mission begins in 1429 at 17 years old. Following immediate and spectacular military successes, Joan leads the dauphin to be crowned at Reims Cathedral as Charles VII (1401-1461), King of France, that same year.
Joan’s military role ends as abruptly as it began with Joan’s capture on the battlefield. She is held in prison for a ransom that her King never paid (though there were attempts to rescue her that failed). Joan’s enemies put her on trial as a heretic resulting in the Maid being infamously burned at the stake in Rouen, France, on May 30, 1431.
This condemnation by local Church officials sympathetic to England was overturned by broader Church authorities in 1456. Centuries later, in May 1920, Joan was consecrated as a Catholic saint. Although Joan was just 19 years old when she died, her brief and successful military and political exploits—as well as her unshakable belief under incredible duress that her actions were God’s errand — set France on its path to sovereignty and earned her a place as a co-patron of France today.
NOTES by John P. Walsh.
Versailles – The Palace of Versailles (French: Château de Versailles), or simply Versailles is a royal castle in Versailles, west of Paris in the Île-de-France region that includes Paris and its environs. The Château is open today as a museum and is a very popular tourist attraction. For more visit: http://en.chateauversailles.fr/
Joan of Arc – Joan of Arc (French: Jeanne d’Arc) was born January 6, 1412 and died by execution (burned at the stake) in Rouen, France, on May 30, 1431. Nicknamed “The Maid of Orléans” (French: La Pucelle d’Orléans) Joan of Arc is considered a heroine of France for her role during the The Hundred Years War and is canonized Roman Catholic saint. She is one of several patrons of France today.
Domremy – (French: Domrémy, today Domrémy-la-Pucelle in reference to Joan of Arc.) Domremy is a small commune in the Vosges department in Grand Est in northeastern France. It is the birthplace of Joan of Arc. In 1429 Domrémy (and neighboring Greux) was exempted from taxes “forever” by King Charles VII which was the sole request made of the king by Joan of arc when Charles asked her how he could show her his appreciation for seeing him. Taxes were imposed again upon Domrémy and Greux during the French Revolution and the populations has had to pay taxes ever since.
Meuse – (French: la Meuse.) The Meuse is a major European river, originating in France and flowing through Belgium and the Netherlands and draining into the North Sea. It has a total length of 925 km (575 miles).
Rivulet of Three-Fountains – (French: Le ruisseau des Trois Fontaines.) In Jeanne’s time, the village of Domremy was divided by the Creek of Three Fountains, so named because of three sources that fed it. To the south of it (right bank) is the Barrois and to the north of it (left bank) is Champagne. The stream also separates Domremy and Greux. Champagne was part of the royal domain, and when Joan left her home to aid the “Dauphin” Charles at Chinon or went to Nancy to visit the Duke of Lorraine, she had to seek safe conduct.
The Duchy of Lorraine – (French: Lorraine) was a duchy or dukedom that today is included in the larger region of Lorraine in northeastern France. Its capital was Nancy.
Province of Chaumont – Chaumont is a small commune of France which historically was the seat of the Counts of Champagne.
Jacques d’Arc – also Jacquot d’Arc. (b. 1375/80-d. 1431). Father of the Maid, he was born about 1375 at Ceffonds, in the diocese of Troyes, according to the Traité sommaire of Charles du Lys published in 1612. It was about the time of his marriage that he established himself at Domrémy, for his wife Isabelle Romée was from Vouthon, a village about seven kilometers away. He seems to have enjoyed an honorable position in this countryside, whether he was rich, as some have implied, or not. In 1419 he was the purchaser of the Chateau de I’Ile, with its appurtenances, put up at auction that year. In a document of 1423 he is described as doyen or sergeant of the village. He therefore took rank between the mayor and the provost, and was in charge of collecting taxes, and exercised functions similar to those of the garde Champêtre which is a combination of forest ranger,game warden, and policeman in certain rural communes in France. The same year finds him among the seven notables who responded for the village in the matter of tribute imposed by the damoiseau of Commercy. In 1427 in an important trial held before Robert de Baudricourt, captain of Vaucouleurs, he was again acting as a delegate of his fellow citizens. We know that he opposed with all his power the mission of his daughter, whom he wished to marry off. However, he went to Reims for the coronation of the King, and the King and the municipality defrayed his expenses and gave him a horse for his return to Domrémy. He was ennobled in December, 1429. Jacques d’Arc died 1431, it is said, from sorrowing over his daughter’s end.
Castle of the Island – In front of Domremy, and connected by a bridge, the Castle of the Island was the possession of the Bourlemont family, the lords of Domremy. It was rented by the inhabitants in the time of Joan and served, at times, as a refuge for their cattle.
Brothers Jacques, Jean, and Pierre, and sister, Catherine – Jacquemin d’Arc (b. 1402 d. 1450). There is very little known about Jacquemin, other than he was born 1402 in Vaudeville-le-Haut, and died in 1450. He was married to Catherine Corviset who was born in 1405 and died in 1430. They were married at Domremy.
Jean d’Arc (b. 1409 d. 1447) fled with his sister Joan to Neufchâteau; accompanied her to France; and was lodged at the house of Jacques Boucher at Orléans. With his father, he was ennobled in December 1429. As provost of Vaucouleurs he worked for the rehabilitation of his sister; appeared at bodies in Rouen and Paris; and formed a commission to get evidence from their native district and produce witnesses. He was Bailly of Vermandois and captain of Chartres.
Pierre d’Arc (b. 1408 d. ?) went to seek his sister in France; fought along with her at Orléans; lived in the same house with her in that city; accompanied her to Reims; and was ennobled with the rest of the family. He was captured with Jeanne at Compiègne, but was eventually released. Pierre retired to the city of Orléans where he received many gifts – from the King, the city of Orléans, and a pension from Duke Charles, among them the Île aux Boeufs in 1443. The descendants of Pierre had in their possession three of Jeanne’s letters and a sword that she had worn. The letters were saved but the sword was lost during the the French revolution.
Catherine d’Arc (b. 1413 d. 1429). There is very little known about Catherine, other than she married Colin, the son of Greux’s mayor, and died very young in childbirth near the end of 1429.
Isabella Romée – Isabelle Romée (b. 1385 d. Dec. 8, 1458), known as Isabelle de Vouthon. Isabelle d’Arc and Ysabeau Romée, was the mother of Jeanne. She moved to Orléans in 1440 and received a pension from the city. She petitioned Pope Nicholas V to reopen the court case that had convicted Jeanne of heresy, and then, in her seventies, addressed the assembly delegation from the Holy See in Paris. On July 7, 1456 the appeals court overturned the conviction of Jeanne. Isabelle gave her daughter an upbringing in the Catholic religion and taught her the craft of spinning wool.
The First Biography of Joan of Arc, with the Chronicle Record of a Contemporary Account. Translated and Annotated by Rankin, Daniel S., Quintal, Claire. [Pittsburgh] University of Pittsburgh Press .
Joan of Arc by Herself and her Witnesses.Pernoud, Régine. Lanham, MD : Scarborough House,  Translation of: Jeanne d’Arc par elle-même et par ses témoins. Joan of Arc: Her Story. Pernoud, Régine. New York : St. Martin’s Press, 1998. Translation of: Jeanne d’Arc.
Joan of Arc. Lucie-Smith, EdwardNew York : Norton, 1977.
Joan of Arc. Twain, Mark, New York, Harper and Brothers [c.1924].
Joan of Arc. Boutet de Monvel, Louis Maurice (1850-1913), New York : Pierpont Morgan Library:Viking Press, 1980.
Joan of Arc : A Life Transfigured. Harrison, Kathryn, New York : Doubleday, 2014.
Joan of Arc : A History. Castor, Helen, New York, NY: HarperCollinsPublishers, .
The Beautiful Story of Joan of Arc The Martyr Maid of France, Lowe, Viola Ruth, illustrations by O.D.V. Guillonnet, 1923, multiple U.S. editions.
Chaval’s cartoons, mainly wordless, are often derisive, ironic and filled with dark humor.
By John P. Walsh
The 53-year-old French cartoonist’s suicide in Paris in winter 1968 served as a tragic end to a witty career. Born Yvan Le Louarn near Bordeaux in 1915, Chaval left a suicide note on the apartment door that read “Mind the gas.” But today it is his actions as a young man in his late 20s that mark him for controversy.
Chaval’s professional name is a bastardization of Chevel, an early twentieth century architect for whose work the term “architecture naïve” was coined. While Chevel came to fantastical architecture after being a poor farmer, Chaval trained for years at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, the nation’s foremost art school.
It is a specific period in the cartoonist’s past that erupted into a controversy in late spring 2008 as a major French art museum mounted a retrospective exhibition of Chaval’s career. During the near incredible period of World War II, Chaval created drawings after 1940 with a racist and anti-Semitic slant for publication in Le Progrès, a Vichy newspaper. His drawings were characterized as “Pro-German Vichy and not just” by Pascal Ory, a leading French cultural historian of the Université de Paris-I-Panthéon-Sorbonne. When the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Bordeaux hosted an exhibition of 120 of Chaval’s pen-and-ink cartoons in summer 2008 none of his wartime anti-Semitic drawings was displayed. In an article in La Croix, the daily Paris Roman Catholic newspaper, Professor Ory revealed the nature of some of these hidden racist works as the exhibition opened.
By the mid 1950s Chaval was an international sensation, his cartoon work mentioned in the same breath in American publications with icons such as James Thurber (1894-1961), Charles Addams (1912-1988) and William Steig (1907-2003). Immediately after the war Chaval was cleared of wrongdoing and started to be published in top French publications—Punch, Le Figaro, Le Nouvel Observateur, Paris Match. He won the industry’s highest awards and remained at the top of his field until the time of his death.
In a June 5, 2008 article Professor Ory described Chaval’s wartime cartoons as “compelling” of racist anti-Semitism. One published Chaval wartime cartoon Professor Ory described—and the Bordeaux fine arts museum director confirmed its existence—shows two figures with exaggerated noses and wearing yellow stars on their coats. One of them wears two yellow stars and says to the other: “He made me a good price!” Professor Ory criticized not only the drawing’s crude racist ontology but that the Bordeaux art museum would seek to ignore or even cover up the cartoon’s existence in Chaval’s oeuvre. “I’m surprised,” Ory said, speaking in 2008, “that after thirty years of historiography, we are always looking to conceal the period of collaboration under the Occupation in France.”
That the art museum buried Chaval’s early racist work from view without explanation did not stop the museum director, M. Olivier Le Bihan, from defending an impugned Chaval after his controversial work was publicized: “We do not have the right to condemn a man because he made a tendentious drawing. Remember that after the war a trial cleared Chaval of some of the anti-Semitic cartoons ascribed to him. Chaval was called a humanist in Robert Merle’s 1954 Holocaust novel (“Death is my Trade”).”
Professor Ory, author of the classic Les Collaborateurs 1940-1945 (published in 1976), counters that it is “absurd” for the museum to justify the overriding purpose of an art exhibition as “first drawing” or that Chaval “does not deserve this trial of intent” because “he did it to eat.” Professor Ory states there is a “dialogue gap” between art historians and historians that leads to an “endemic lack of historical understanding” of the issues involved in an art exhibition resulting only in an ensuing public spectacle of controversy. Ory points to a similar mistake being made in another 2008 exhibition held in Paris of photographs by Collaborationist André Zucca (French, 1897-1973). This exhibition caused a public furor for not being specific about the conditions under which these images of the city during the Nazi Occupation had been made.
Ory contends that Chaval’s case is not simply a matter of a hungry young artist making due in wartime. There is further documentation of Chaval’s friendly relations with racist editors and writers on the Vichy newspaper. Beyond these facts is Professor Ory’s principled belief that “the problem of political engagement is not secondary” to any artist’s life or work. Chaval, professor Ory concludes, is a “draftsman collaborationist” – and though his political affiliations do not detract from his artistic talent it becomes important for the art historian and curator to explain the historical context including “the artist’s overall character” to the viewer. This practices intellectual honesty and makes the enterprise of art making and art exhibition “more human,” according to Ory.